Fish Like A Pro

Adding weight to his lures allows Dustin Wilks to fish a plastic worm or jig quickly and cover a lot of deep water, just as a crankbait expert would.

Fishing deep — but without patience

There’s no disputing who is the best crankbait fisherman in the world — fellow Sportsman columnist and professional fisherman David Fritts.

When I was a kid I bought dozens of deep-diving baits and tried to copy his style and success. It took way too much discipline — I can’t even spell discipline.

All the idling around just looking was too much for a 15 year old. To be honest, it is still too much for a 31 year old.

But things could be changing for me, as David just won and FLW tournament at Clarks Hill and nearly won one of the all-time bass bashings in history at Falcon lake using his famous DT 16 and 20 crankbait.

So maybe I should look at the depth-finder a little longer and hold out for the mega school.

I admit I have no patience. It seems like a funny career to get into for a guy like me.

Casting for hours and waiting for a bite, how boring. Let’s pick up that trolling motor and run that Skeeter 70 mph to the next spot and fish fast. Well, sometimes even I have to give in and fish deep. But I have learned to fish deep fast.

This past season during the Bassmaster Elite series, we had a lot of deep water fishing in early summer. Deep water can also be good in the pre-spawn, as not all the fish move up at once.

My top two baits for fishing deep and fast are a worm and a jig. I don’t have the skill Fritts has to perfectly line up on a piece of cover and make that crankbait hit a stump in 15 feet of water. If it happens, it’s simply because there are a lot of stumps down there.

You may say a worm and a jig are lures to be fished slowly — but not the way I do it.

I put a piece of lead on there that will strain the healthiest of elbows and the best of rods. With a 1-ounce (or bigger) jig or worm, I can fish 10- to 15-feet deep as if I were casting to water 3-feet deep.

The heavy weight falls fast and puts me in direct contact with all the best cover. I can follow a creek channel or road bed with lightning speed, making each cast perfectly while hitting the lip and all of the cover. It’s almost like just flipping down the bank.

I do the deep thing in reverse. Most guys pick up a worm or jig after the crankbait bite slows. I pick up the crankbait after the worm or jig slows.

My favorite worm is an action tail, the Culprit in 10-inch length. I also fish the 12-inch Culprit worm lot, but it’s bulk slows the lure’s fall.

I often tear off about 3 inches of a 12-inch Culprit just to have a thicker worm if the water is dingy. If it gets a little tough, out comes the original 7 ½-inch worm, usually with a ½-ounce weight and I go a little shallower — maybe 7 to 12 feet.

The color I used most of last year was wine with blue flake. It’s a deep, dark red, and the fish ate it really well.

I use all these worm set-ups with a Daiwa Steez 7-foot 1-inch heavy-action casting rod and 15-pound-test fluorocarbon.

The most important part of fishing deep is finding bass first, and that is why Fritts and my buddy Little Fritts (Marty Stone) are so good. Marty has been to the same lakes for years and he tried to do it his way — on the bank. He said he has been beat enough on the bank to start looking outside.

“If things don’t work out deep, you can always go shallow,” he said. “You don’t find them in 30 minutes out deep. I usually spend eight to 10 hours idling, then in the last two hours I fish the spots I thought looked good with a crankbait or Carolina rig. The offshore fish are cleaner, heavier, and more abundant and you can’t compete only going shallow in many events.

“When you see Denny (Brauer) idling around, you know you can’t always win shallow.”

Marty is the first to admit fishing out takes a discipline that only comes with age.

“There was no way I could have idled around for eight hours when I was 30 years old,” he said.

Maybe one day I’ll have the discipline to look all day at a depth-finder. But for now, I’ll stick to fishing deep and fast.

Dustin Wilks is a 31-year-old professional bass angler and Raleigh native now living in Rocky Mount. He has qualified for the Bassmaster Classic four times and operates Fish Like a Pro Fishing Lessons (252-883-6749, His sponsors include Assassinator Spinnerbaits, Chatterbuzz, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha, Daiwa, Keelshield and Culprit.

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